The cabin crew of a Vietnam Airlines flight was deemed unqualified to land the aircraft in bad weather after multiple failed attempts in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa earlier this week.
Vietnam Airlines flight VN 1344 was forced to return to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City after several failed landing attempts at Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa on Tuesday morning.
Passengers panicked by the incident chose to abandon the flight during its temporary stop in the southern metropolis.
According to Le Xuan Thuong, an official at the Central Airports Authority, both the foul weather condition and the flight crew’s lack of qualifications are to blame for the incident.
Extreme fog at Cam Ranh Airport on Tuesday morning made it difficult for all planes to approach the runway from the northern end, as per the airfield’s regulations, Thuong said.
Aircraft were redirected to the runway’s southern entrance, on which all pilots are required to be eligible for using the ILS (instrument landing system) to bring their planes down, Thuong continued, adding that the cabin crew of flight VN 1344 did not meet the ILS requirement.
The plane was forced to circle above the airport before returning to Tan Son Nhat to ensure passenger safety.
Originally scheduled to leave Ho Chi Minh City at 5:30 am and arrive in Cam Ranh at 6:35 am, the flight’s failed landing attempts and temporary return trip delayed its arrival until 10:40 am.
During an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Lai Xuan Thanh, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, confirmed that the VN 1344 flight crew is qualified to land using ILS at all airports except for Cam Ranh.
Mountains towering 1,000 meters at the southern end of the airport can hinder visibility, meaning all pilots must be granted an ILS certificate from Cam Ranh Airport itself to be allowed to touch down during bad weather, Thanh elaborated.
In order to make the landing, flight crews must pass an exclusive ILS training course at the airdrome, the official added.
The current law restricts pilots without the ILS eligibility to landing only at the northern entrance of the airport and only during normal weather conditions.
Thanh cited a similar regulation at the Hong Kong International Airport, surrounded by multiple skyscrapers, that requires pilots to have specific training before they can land during special circumstances.
Vietnam Airlines issued an apology to passengers on the flight, asserting that it puts safety as a top priority and complies with all regulations promulgated by competent authorities.